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An Ice Core Reveals the Economic Health of the Roman Empire (nytimes.com)
59 points by montrose 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments



This was a very timely article for me, as I just yesterday finished the epic and excellent History of Rome podcast (http://thehistoryofrome.typepad.com/). I found it extremely informative, and it really shed some light on the origins of many aspects of European history, that otherwise just seem peculiar.


I'll latch onto your post to also recommend the podcasts "The Fall of Rome" [0] and "Tides of History" [1], both by Patrick Wyman. He's a PhD who specialized in Late Antiquity, and often looks at Roman history/society from the lens of networks, trades, and the movement of people and goods over time. The one caveat I have is to bear with him in terms of the repetitive/boring ads he sticks into the middle of his episodes. I like to imagine his podcasts as an audio version of a History Channel show -- at least what the History Channel was supposed to be rather than what it's devolved into.

[0] https://fallofromepodcast.wordpress.com/

[1] https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/wondery/tides-of-history


Thanks for the recs, those look fantastic! While we're talking history podcasts, Revolutions (by Mike Duncan of The History of Rome), The Age of Napoleon, and Hardcore History are also great.


Check out the next series Revolutions by the same guy, Mike Duncan. Its absolutely fascinating and when he gets to the French Revolution he goes into so many sub stories and details.


Revolutions is fantastic. I actually listened to many of the early seasons before doing The History of Rome. It was truly enlightening to learn how the New World revolutions and French Revolution were interconnected. And it's also interesting to understand how the Roman roots of the pre-modern world and the precedent of the English Revolution informed all of the late-18th and early-19th century revolutions.


The PNAS article is out of reach for me, but I found this: http://www.dri.edu/newsroom/news-releases/5657-lead-pollutio...

which has the graph and a little more information than the nytimes article


The giant spike around the time of Alexander's death is interesting (did they open some big new mine?), along with the relatively elevated level thereafter. It's as if the Hellenistic era and the Pax Romana were almost contiguous, with the crisis of the Roman republic as a passing interruption.


>>It's as if the Hellenistic era and the Pax Romana were almost contiguous,

They are commonly grouped together as phases of classical antiquity.


Wouldn't the lead levels also be affected by variations in each year's winds?


How could they assume the lead level changes are caused by Romans? They are separated by 4600 kilometers. That seems far fetched.


Not sure why it's so far fetched ? Romans used industrial processing techniques known to put lead into the atmosphere, while other civilizations at that time did to any large extent not


The greenland is too far from Rome. The lead levels could be from anywhere on earth.


You contradict yourself.


Just because we know the Romans used lead, doesn't mean they were the only ones or the only possible cause (both unknown unknowns). There's no contradiction, there's an unshared set of assumptions.


Yeah i think Julius Ceasar global leadening was a conspriacy by China /s


How does that random thought happen?


Well, your second sentence is true. But since the levels seem to rise and fall with conditions in Rome - a known polluter with known health problems from lead - it is a very likely source of those levels.

Scientists create hypotheses on the basis of information available to them; if more information arrives, the hypotheses are (eventually) adjusted accordingly. They're not meant to be taken as absolute assertions.




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